Naval Aviation Update and Airfix 2017 Range Launch
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and your regular look at everything that is happening in the Airfix modelling world. As usual, we have another feature packed blog which will include the latest update from the exciting Supermarine Walrus project, some new decal scheme announcements and several new attractive box artworks to bring you. We are also pleased to announce the launch of the 2017 Airfix range, which includes all the new tooling announcements we have unveiled over the previous few weeks and a number of re-issued kits which benefit from new schemes. All the new models are now live on the Airfix website and we will take a closer look at some of them a little later in this blog. We will also be revealing the first pictures in our ‘Flash your Stash’ feature, where Workbench readers have been sending us images of their unmade model kit collections, as we search for the most impressive future projects stockpile. All this is to come in Workbench 39, so we had better make a start.
New Walrus coming together
First test shot build of the new 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus
The annual Scale ModelWorld show at Telford is always a valuable opportunity for the Airfix team to showcase our latest model developments and to spend time engaging with our loyal and extremely knowledgeable modellers. Over the course of this busy weekend, thousands of modellers and enthusiasts visited the Airfix stand and it is possible to quickly gauge modeller sentiment regarding the new model announcements for 2017. Clearly different models will appeal to different people and everyone will have their own particular favourite, but from the comments overheard at Telford this year, it seems as if the new 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus is a kit that a great many modellers intend to add to their future build project schedule.
In this slightly larger scale, the new Walrus will certainly make for an impressive model centrepiece, even though it has to be said that the aircraft itself would not really be in the running for any aviation aesthetics awards. That being said the Supermarine Walrus has to be regarded as one of the more interesting aircraft of the Second World War and one which can certainly claim to be one of designer R.J Mitchell’s most successful creations. If you were unfortunate enough to have ditched in the English Channel during WWII, you would certainly have been glad to see a Walrus gliding down to rescue you and probably hold this biplane amphibian in extremely high regard.
We are pleased to be able to bring Workbench readers this exclusive update on the new 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus project as it advances one stage further towards its eventual release. As readers will be aware, these images are being brought to you very early in the development process and there is still a lot of work to be done before the model can be released for production – that being said, this is another fascinating insight into the development work required in bringing a new model tooling to market.
An exclusive look at the first test sprue shots from the new Walrus tooling
For the Airfix development team, the arrival of the first test sprues from any new tooling project is a time of great excitement. This is the first time that they will have seen the fruits of their considerable labours in kit form, giving them an idea of what the new model will look like. Unfortunately for them this is also a time of feverish activity, as every aspect of the component parts must be checked for accuracy and detail – only when this work has been completed can a test build of the kit commence.
Constructing a model from the first test shots is another crucial stage in the development of a new tooling and requires great dexterity and attention to detail from the development team. Checking every aspect of each component part as the first build progresses, the fit of the individual pieces will be assessed, not only to ensure the model is as accurate as possible, but also to ensure the build is a pleasurable experience for the modeller. Importantly for a model as complex as the Walrus, the team will need to build an example of the kit in each of the available configurations, from alternate undercarriage positions, to the wings configured for flight and folded back for stowage. Once this work is completed, they will have a number of unique and extremely interesting 1st test shot builds and a clear indication of the work they still need to do. We look forward to bringing you further updates from the Supermarine Walrus project in the coming weeks, but for now, we hope you enjoy seeing these exclusive first images from the first test shot builds.
New Swordfish Schemes Announced
New box artwork for the 1/72nd scale Fairey Swordfish Mk.I
This latest edition of Workbench is turning into something of a celebration of British naval air power of WWII and following on from our main Supermarine Walrus update, we focus on another classic biplane. First taking to the air in 1943, the venerable Fairey Swordfish may look like an aircraft that should not really have seen service during WWII, but it went on to serve through the entire conflict and prove to be a critical component in Britain’s naval strike capabilities. Interestingly, the Swordfish was originally referred to by its internal designation T.S.R.1 (Torpedo, Spotter, Reconnaissance), which were the roles intended for the new aircraft. When a second, improved aircraft was subsequently constructed, this received the designation T.S.R.2, which turned out to be quite a famous acronym with regard to another famous British aviation design.
Belying the slightly ungainly appearance of the Fairey Swordfish, it proved to be an exceptionally robust and adaptable aircraft, earning its place as one of the most famous naval aircraft of WWII. It’s nickname of ‘Stringbag’ is thought to refer to the obsolete appearance of the aircraft, the fact that its docile handling characteristics would allow it to be flown in any conditions and that no matter what size or shape of offensive ordnance it was required to carry, just strap it on and the Swordfish will do the rest. Essential to Britain’s war effort, most of the 2,400 Swordfish built were actually constructed by Blackburn Aircraft at their Sherburn-in-Elmet facility in North Yorkshire, with the final aircraft being delivered as late as 18th August 1944.
In the hands of an experienced crew, the Swordfish could be devastatingly effective against enemy shipping and submarines, using its slow speed and manoeuvrability to launch its attack. For the inexperienced pilot, the Swordfish proved rather forgiving, with its low take-off and landing speeds helping to make this notoriously dangerous phase of flight much more manageable. An extremely rugged aeroplane, the Swordfish excelled in the often harsh environments it was required to operate in, but when pressing home their attacks, crews would often be facing a hail of fire from the latest enemy Battleships, or attack from much more capable enemy aircraft. There is no doubting that these famous biplane attack aircraft were flown by a very special breed of airmen – heroes to a man.
Fairey Swordfish Mk.I P3992, No.825 NAS, HMS Glorious 1939
This latest release of the 1/72nd scale Fairey Swordfish Mk.I includes new scheme options to finish your kit as either a colourful pre-war aircraft, or one that took part in one of the most effective naval strikes of the Second World War. Scheme A presents the modeller with Swordfish P3992, which is still wearing the attractive pre-war aluminium and cerrux grey finish which is such an appealing feature of aircraft from this period. Wearing the colours of No.825 Naval Air Squadron, this aircraft will have spent time on board its home carrier HMS Glorious, or operating at bases around the Mediterranean in the months leading up to the start of WWII. With war inevitable, FAA Swordfish lost their flamboyant schemes and were given a much more appropriate camouflage finish, bringing to an end this fascinating period of aircraft presentation.
HMS Glorious could trace her history back to her completion in 1916 as the second of the Courageous class battlecruisers, but was converted to an aircraft carrier in the late 1920s. Spending most of her career operating in Mediterranean waters, Glorious was sunk by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, whilst evacuating British aircraft from Norway in early June 1940. With the loss of over 1200 men and many aircraft, this was a huge setback for Britain and her Royal Navy at this early stage of WWII.
Fairey Swordfish Mk.I P4154/L4M Battle of Taranto, November 1940
Scheme B is an absolute Swordfish classic and marks one of the most significant naval engagements of the Second World War. Operation Judgement was the codename for a British plan to attack the powerful Italian navy at anchor in the harbour at Taranto and remove this significant force from disrupting British operations in the region. With Britain and her Commonwealth battling the Axis powers alone, the critical Mediterranean Sea lanes were becoming heavily contested and with Royal Naval forces building up in the area, a major battle with the Italian fleet was looking inevitable. Rather than wait, the Royal Navy decided to strike whilst the Italians were still at port, mounting numerous reconnaissance flights over the harbour in finalising their audacious battle plans.
At 21.00 hours on 11th November 1940, the first of 21 Fairey Swordfish lifted off the deck of HMS Illustrious and headed for the Italian fleet – attacking in two waves, the first group consisted of 12 aircraft, with a further 9 following 90 minutes after the first. Evading a network of protective barrage balloons and murderous anti-aircraft fire, the Swordfish crews pressed home their attacks, inflicting significant damage on the Italian ships and buying the Royal Navy significant breathing space in the Mediterranean theatre. The Italian fleet lost half of its capital ships in one night and whilst their Navy continued to operate against British forces in the region, this attack significantly reduced their effectiveness.
Prior to the raid, it was thought that air launched torpedo attacks could not be carried out in shallow waters, requiring at least 75 ft. depth to deploy the weapons successfully. The Fleet Air Arm devised a method of preventing the torpedoes from diving too deep, ensuring the success of the Taranto raid in the relatively shallow waters of the harbour – their success was also studied closely by Japanese military planners, who were secretly planning their strike against the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and were looking to overcome similar attack delivery challenges.
Highlighting the importance of the Fairey Swordfish as a naval attack aircraft, the Taranto raid was the first all-aircraft ship to ship strike attack and clearly highlighted the vulnerability of large warships to aerial attack. This classic Swordfish scheme marks one of the most significant operations in the service life of this famous naval aircraft and this recently announced 1/72nd scale kit (A04053A) will be available later in 2017, but is available for pre-order on the Airfix website now or from your local Airfix retailer.
Britain’s Canberra - a World Leader
Box artwork from the superb 1/48th scale English Electric Canberra
As the jet powered successor to the De Havilland Mosquito, the Canberra was always going to be a high-profile aircraft, but what designers at English Electric managed to produce was nothing less than a world beater. This coming May will see the sixty-eighth anniversary of the first flight of the magnificent Canberra which went on to have a remarkable 55-year service career with the Royal Air Force, which is why a recent submission to the customer images section of the Airfix website really grabbed our attention. We contacted modeller Jason Young to ask if we could feature his work in the latest edition of Workbench, to which he kindly agreed – more than this, he sent us a series of build images and a review of this impressive project. With a lot of information to include, we have decided to split the review over two editions of Workbench, with the second part appearing in the next edition, due to be published on Friday 3rd February – over to Jason.
"Seeing as my current vein of interest has been 1/48 scale classic RAF jets, which I go a bit mad with the detailing on, the Airfix English Electric Canberra would fit right in. Having built 3 EE Lightnings, Meteor F.8, Gloster Javelin and TSR2 previously, I thought if I only made one Canberra in this scale, I should go for something colourful. I was actually inspired by an Airdecal sheet that came up for sale on an auction site, so once purchased, the rest of the items were acquired over the course of a week.
This review centres around the Airfix 1/48 Canberra B.2 kit which I modified into a B(TT).2 with the aforementioned Airdecal sheet, an Eduard Big Ed set, Scale Aircraft Conversions metal gear legs, Aires resin undercarriage bays, and later on, Xtradecal and Model Alliance decals. When I started, I didn't have much specific reference material for WH734 - just external shots in flight - but I was put in touch with John Sheehan of the IPMS Canberra SIG who provided a lot of reference photos, both of this airframe and others, as well as official plans and diagrams. Armed with these, I modified the cockpit into a 2-seater, and added the Eduard instrument panels (which for some reason were coloured green, rather than black) and seat straps, as well as a lot of scratch built stuff from plastic rod, strip, copper wire, spare brass, you name it - in the end, of course, most would not be visible, but I know it's there! I also fabricated the aerial array in the nose from plastic rod and copper wire, being fussy enough to ensure the 3 vertical elements were different lengths, as on the real thing. All this was weathered up with lots of dry-brushing silver, and yellow primer around the walkways and rudder pedals.
To keep the finished item on its nose, I was warned by many modellers to install a lot of additional weight. I purchased Liquid Gravity for the task and ended up using over half the bottle, I'm guessing around 170g, plus about another 50g in White Tac. The former is very effective - flood the area you want to pour it into with superglue, add the weights, then seal it all again with more superglue. In the end, when I added more to the bomb bay, I actually had to grind some down to close the bay doors and it was literally like trying to grind down iron! I can't tell you just how heavy the finished model is, but I'm glad I replaced the plastic gear legs with metal ones, just to be on the safe side!
The Aires bays replaced the kit items - far greater detail, though anyone who has used these products before will know just how much plastic you have to thin down before you can install them, so a Dremel is essential. Also installed at this time were the wing flaps. Having constructed them before when making the Javelin and Meteor, I knew what to expect and they actually go together quite quickly. Once again, their installation required the removal of the plastic detailing on the wings as supplied.
Once the fuselage halves were joined and the wings added, the filled areas were smoothed and some more external details added - these details included a radome, which resembled a pork pie hat that sits above the nose glazing, fashioned from a piece of kebab skewer, positioned on a scrap piece of etched brass that even had the river detailing on it and the rear-view mirror fairing behind the left side of the canopy, which was carved from scrap resin casting block. The entire airframe was given an initial priming with Mr Surfacer, followed by several primer coats of white Matt acrylic automotive spray.
The canopy, as supplied, has two clear-view portholes engraved on it, which are oval, and this airframe only had the one, so I had to remove them, then polish the canopy back to clarity with Micromesh before a dip in Klear restored the shine. Before installing on the fuselage, I added two strips of decal striping to the insides of the canopy, as can be seen on the finished item. Once installed the canopy was masked up, as were the rear windows and nose glazing."
Jason’s impressive display of 1/48th scale British jets shows what we can look forward to in the second instalment of this review
I think you will agree that this is an impressive build project and we look forward to bringing you the concluding instalment in the next edition of Workbench. Thank you to Jason for sending us his build review and for allowing us to share it with Workbench readers.
New 2017 Airfix range LIVE!
Some of the new box artwork featured in the 2017 Airfix catalogue
Regular visitors to the Airfix website will have noticed the addition of a new banner on the homepage from Wednesday 4th January, which announced the launch of the new 2017 product range and a host of new models. Along with all the new model tooling announcements revealed at the end of 2016, the latest range also includes a host of new schemes for existing, re-released kits, as well as some which benefit from new parts. The picture montage above shows some of the new model artwork revealed for the first time in the new catalogue, which supports some of the fantastic new kit announcements. If you have yet to discover the new model range, please head for the Airfix website and browse through the modelling delights within.
The latest 1/72nd scale P-51D Mustang features this stunning artwork
One new model already available on the Airfix website and in good model stores everywhere is this example of the 1/72nd scale North American P-51D Mustang (A01004A). Always amongst the most popular kits in any range, this latest Mustang features new livery details and decal scheme for a late war machine operated by one of the most successful USAAF Fighter Groups of the Second World War, the 352nd Fighter Group – the Blue Nosers of Bodney.
North American P-51D Mustang PE*E (44-14207) was the mount of Lt. Eugene W. James of the 328th Fighter Squadron and carried the name ‘Rose Marie’ on the port side cowling, under the exhaust stubs. This side of the aircraft also carried the unusual artwork of crew chief S/Sgt. Iggy Marinello and his rendition of the Kelly's Tyres logo – obviously a US motoring business of the day. The starboard side of the aircraft carried Marinello’s personal markings ‘The Kelly Kid 2’, apparently named after a young relative of his back in the states. Making a welcome change from other famous blue nosed 352nd Fighter Group Mustangs, this is sure to be a popular new scheme with modellers everywhere.
Time to ‘Flash your Stash’
As a rallying cry to modellers all over the world, we thought it would be a good idea to start 2017 with a little light hearted look at one aspect of our hobby that affects all of us to some extent and could easily qualify as both a pleasure and a pain in equal measure – the size of our model stash. It is always comforting to have a year’s modelling projects laid out in front of us, just so we know where we stand, but with new models tempting us all the time it can be a test of our resolve not to steadily increase the size of our stockpile. Thankfully, we are not alone, but sometimes it is reassuring to acknowledge that fact with documentary evidence, which is where this new feature comes in. We are grateful to the readers who have already got behind this initiative and sent in their stash pictures, although we fear we may have unleashed a modelling beast – just take a look at this collection of unmade kits!
Mike Terre in the US has a seriously impressive kit collection
One of the first people to respond to our call for stash pictures was Mike Terre, of Milton, Delaware in the US. Mike sent in these two pictures and it is difficult to see how his impressive stash could be bettered – what a collection. He was only too happy to share pictures of his kit collection and told us that he had been making models since he was a youngster, mostly building 1/72nd scale piston powered aircraft – Mike turned 60 just before Christmas. With over one thousand models in his stash, ranging from ‘Golden Oldies’ to the very latest Airfix releases, Mike said that he never bought a single model that he didn’t intend to build – you are going to be a busy man Mike. Thank you for sending the pictures in Mike, you have certainly set the bar high! Now it’s over to other Workbench readers to see if anyone can beat this stash.
Cosford Walking Talk for Airfix Lead Researcher
We are pleased to announce that our Lead Researcher, Simon Owen, will be conducting the latest in his highly successful series of ‘Walking Talks’ at the RAF Museum Cosford on Wednesday 22nd February. Commencing at 12.00pm and lasting approximately one hour, this latest talk is entitled ‘The V-Bombers and Airfix – Kits and the Cold War’ and will focus on the RAF’s three V-Bombers and how they were developed for the Airfix range. Taking place in the National Cold War Exhibition, Simon will be walking between the three subject aircraft on display at Cosford as he describes the differences between these iconic aircraft and the difficulties encountered in bringing them to the Airfix kit range. He will be available to answer any questions at the end of the talk, so this is an ideal opportunity to get close to Airfix.
The talk is completely FREE, however these are popular events and places are limited to just 30 people – please head for the events section of the Cosford website and book your ticket now, as they will be allocated on a first come first served basis. This walking talk should last approximately one hour and if you do attend, please don’t forget to send us some pictures of your day.
There are now many ways for our readers to get involved in all the latest Airfix modelling chat and sharing ideas with fellow modellers. You can always e-mail us directly by using our firstname.lastname@example.org address, or there is our dedicated Workbench thread on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could either access the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch with us, as it is always great to hear from fellow modellers.
Don’t forget that all the very latest model release information can be found by checking the New Arrivals section of the Airfix website, which can be accessed by clicking the shop section at the top of the webpage. As work on the website is a constant process, a quick search through all the Airfix web pages will usually reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections, so this is always a rewarding way to spend a few minutes.
Until next time, please don’t forget to let us have pictures of your model stashes.
The Airfix Workbench Team
© Hornby Hobbies Ltd. All rights reserved.